Thank you for joining us in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena! If you’ve had any of your prayers answered throughout this novena, you can share those with us all below. We’re praying for you!
Thank you for joining us in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena! If you’ve had any of your prayers answered throughout this novena, you can share those with us all below. We’re praying for you!
Whether you are currently facing a cancer diagnosis for yourself or for a loved one, you can turn to Christ for assistance.
You can ask for prayers from your faith community on earth as well as invoke the intercession of our brothers and sisters in heaven.
These saints in particular intimately know the challenges and fears you face and want to help bring you healing and comfort.
Saint Peregrine became a Servite after having a radical conversion from an enemy of the Pope. He was known for his piety and his work with the poor, as well as his miraculous healing.
The night before a cancerous growth on his foot was scheduled to be amputated, he spent hours in prayer. As he dozed, he had a vision of Christ coming and touching his foot, and woke to find his foot completely healed.
In turn, Peregrine healed many people through his prayers which is why the Church considers Saint Peregrine the patron saint of cancer patients.
Saint Agatha was an early Christian virgin and martyr. She was killed after refusing to marry a high diplomat in order to protect her vow of virginity. The man turned her into the emperor for being a Christian–an offense punishable by death.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of those suffering with breast cancer because of the way she was tortured and martyred. She can help you face your sufferings with courage and hope in the Lord as she did.
Saint Therese of Lisieux speaks about her parents, St. Louis and Zelie Martin and the profound effect they had on her life and sanctity. For their witness of a holy marriage and commitment to family life, Louis and Zelie became the first married couple to be canonized together.
This holy couple also has an intimate connection to those suffering with breast cancer; St. Zelie Martin lived with breast cancer twelve years before her death. Look to them for friendship, inspiration, and prayers.
Like her parents, you can also turn to Saint Therese’s intercession for those facing a lung cancer diagnosis.
Despite living much of her short life as a cloistered nun, St. Therese, French Carmelite known for her “little way” of love was declared a Doctor of the Church and was called by Pope Pius X the “greatest saint of modern times.”
She died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis and is often considered a patron for patients with lung ailments.
St. Gemma Galgani was an Italian mystic who united herself to Christ’s passion in very real ways; she offered many extreme sacrifices and penances, and weekly experienced the stigmata on her hands, feet, and heart.
Saint Gemma Galgani suffered from a brain tumor in her early life and can offer prayers for those who face similar diagnoses.
Saint Timothy traveled with St. Paul and preached the Gospel. He became the first bishop of Ephesus and died a martyr for the faith.
It is also believed that St. Timothy was prone to illness as St. Paul writes to him in his First letter: “Do not still drink water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thy frequent infirmities” (5:23).
For this reason, the Church calls upon Timothy as the patron saint of those suffering from stomach and intestinal disorders, like stomach or colon cancer.
Not much is known for certain about the life of Saint Erasmus though we do know that the bishop of Formia, Italy in the second century. It is also believed that he died as a martyr by disembowelment.
Saint Erasmus was invoked as an intercessor during the bubonic plague and is now considered a patron of those who suffer from abdominal pain, particularly pain of the intestines or liver. You can also invoke his powerful prayers if you or a loved one are facing a liver or intestinal cancer diagnosis.
You might already be familiar with Saint Blaise because of the special blessing of the throats offered every year for his feast day.
He served as a Bishop in what is now Turkey and was also a physician, offering healing to both people’s bodies and souls. He performed many miracles of healing. In one particular story, Blaise healed a young boy choking to death on a fish bone.
The Church now seeks the prayers of Saint Blaise for those suffering from Throat illnesses.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla is a modern saint who was a wife, mother, and physician. Though she is perhaps most known for her courageous and pro-life decision during her fourth pregnancy.
During this pregnancy, Saint Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus; she was offered an abortion to save her life but refused, choosing the life of her unborn daughter.
Saint Gianna is the patron of mothers, physicians and unborn children, though she might unofficially be considered a patron saint of uterine cancer patients because of the difficult diagnosis she received.
Are you or a loved one facing a difficult health diagnosis? Let us know in the comments so we can pray with you for strength and healing.
Have you ever heard a parent, teacher, or friend tell you to “Offer it up” when you were experiencing some discomfort or pain?
It often feels like a trite saying tossed about by well-meaning Catholics but it contains within it a rich and mysterious teaching of the Church.
Unlike the rest of the world, Catholics do not see suffering as something to fear; it was through Christ’s Passion that our salvation came. Instead, we can see it as an opportunity to cooperate in the redemption of souls.
Suffering and Death did not exist in God’s original plan for humanity. However, because of the sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve, they became inevitable parts of the human experience–a natural consequence for our disobedience.
Illness, anxieties, addiction, frustrations, inconveniences–our world is full of sufferings big and small. Thankfully, we have a God who understands what we are going through because He’s been there too.
God the Father did not even spare His only Son from these harsh realities, and in fact, through them instilled Hope among His followers.
Not only is our salvation found through the suffering and death of Jesus, but through it, God also raises up our suffering transforming it into another way by which we can grow closer to Him.
Pope Saint John Paul II in Salvifici Doloris wrote: “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”
God invites us into Christ’s saving work; He wants us to help bring other souls to Him.
Our suffering–everything from minor inconveniences to larger heartbreaks–can become Redemptive when we actively, willingly, and joyfully unite our suffering to the Cross.
Offering up your suffering to the Crucified Christ gives new meaning to your pain, as you participate in Jesus’ profound act of charity and recognize your place in the Mystical Body of Christ.
Words of Encouragement from the Saints
We can learn so much wisdom and take solace in the words of the saints, who learned how to embrace suffering for the salvation of souls. Here are just a few words from our heavenly brothers and sisters to encourage you in seasons of suffering and difficulty:
“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” – (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
“I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, that there are many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of the Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: ‘My God I choose all!’ I do not want to be a saint by halves. I’m not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that You will!” (St. Therese of Lisieux)
“The Christian’s motto is the Cross. You will recognize God’s love by this sign, by the sufferings He sends you.” (St. Padre Pio)
“You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” (Jesus to Saint Faustina)
“If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.” (St. Gemma Galgani).
“Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense treasure of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention.” (Pope St. Pius XII)
“Those who pray and suffer, leaving action for others, will not shine here on earth; but what a radiant crown they will wear in the kingdom of life! Blessed be the ‘apostolate of suffering!” (St. Josemaria Escriva)
“He who wishes to love God does not truly love Him if he has not an ardent and constant desire to suffer for His sake.” (St. Aloysius Gonzaga)
“To the prospect of the Kingdom of God is linked hope in that glory which has its beginning in the Cross of Christ. The Resurrection revealed this glory — eschatological glory. … Those who share in the sufferings of Christ are also called, through their own sufferings, to share in glory.” (Pope St. John Paul II)
Catholics believe that at death, the human soul separates from the body and faces God’s judgment.
A person then enters Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Heaven and Hell are permanent states of eternity; once a soul enters one or the other he or she can no longer do anything to either remove themselves from God’s friendship or put themselves right with Him.
The saints in heaven don’t need our prayers, nor would they have any effect on the souls of the damned.
Purgatory, on the other hand, is more of a “layover” on the way to Heaven for souls who died in friendship with God but who need a final purification of the temporal effects of sin. Our prayers can help quicken about the final release of these Holy Souls from their purification so they can finally enter into the Beatific Vision.
If our eternal fate is sealed at the moment of death, and we cannot pray to anyone out of hell then why does the Church encourage us to pray for the dead? Isn’t it already too late?
Basis for Praying for the Dead in Scripture and Tradition
The Church’s tradition of praying for the dead goes back even before the birth of Christ.
Despite the prevailing thought of our Protestant brothers and sisters, the Catholic belief in praying for the dead does come from Sacred Scripture.
The most direct instance of praying for the dead, and the most compelling Scriptural evidence for Purgatory, comes in 2 Maccabees 12. In this scene, Maccabeus prays for his fallen comrades, who died wearing forbidden and idolatrous amulets:
They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out…
[Judas Maccabeus] then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:41-44).
Sirach chapter 7 also compels us not to “…withhold your kindness from the dead.”
Early Church Fathers and writers–Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine among others–wrote of prayers for the dead. And the Roman Catacombs also bore witness to this tradition with inscriptions like: “Mayst thou live among the saints” and “May God refresh the soul of…”
Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephisians writes that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (4:5-6).
If we believe in the immortal soul, our participation in the Body of Christ does not cease after death; rather it enters a new state. In the same way the saints in heaven can pray for those still walking as pilgrims on earth, the members of the Church Militant can pray for those suffering the cleansing fires of Purgatory.
Comfort for the Grieving
Losing a friend, family member, or even acquaintance can stir up feelings of grief in our hearts. But St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians implores us not to “grieve as others do who have no hope” (4:13).
As we are not God, we are freed from the responsibility of passing the final judgment on those we have known who have died. We cannot know until after our deaths where our loved ones will be spending their eternity.
We can grieve with hope that they clung to Christ at the moment of their death or that they finally turned to him at long last. We entrust our loved ones to the mercy of God by offering prayers for the dead.
How You Can Pray for the Dead
Having Masses said, praying a Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, and offering sacrifices are all efficacious ways to pray for the dead.
Novenas also began as a way to mourn those who have died, and are still used by the faithful today.
It’s easy to assume that because the saints lived a life of virtue and achieved a level of spiritual perfection that they could never relate to us in our struggles, especially in marriage.
Many married saints seemed to have happy, healthy, holy marriages. However, there were many married saints who faced challenges in their vocation and even disunity with their spouse.
If you find yourself in a difficult marriage, look to these saints for guidance and for prayers:
St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine–a pagan turned Doctor of the Church, faced many difficulties in her marriage.
Her husband Roman pagan Patricius had a violent temper and often gave into licentious behavior. Monica’s mother-in-law, who shared his temper, also lived with them. Monica faced criticism for her faith and her piety from them.
She prayed for many years for both her husband and her mother-in-law before they both converted. Patricius died one year later.
The Church considers St. Monica the patron saint of wives and abuse victims, as well as troubled and difficult parents and alcoholics. Ask for her intercession with this novena.
Despite her deep desire to enter a convent, St. Rita’s parents arranged for her to marry Paolo Mancini, an unkind and impatient nobleman. Throughout their 18-year marriage, Rita experienced insults and abuse, and also her husband’s infidelity.
Rita prayed often for her husband’s conversion which happened finally on his deathbed.
At the age of 12, St. Elizabeth of Portugal married King Dinis, eight years her senior. Before they consummated their marriage several years later, Dinis had a string of mistresses and at least 7 illegitimate children.
Elizabeth did not give in to jealousy, bitterness, or anger, and often helped make peace among the family when conflicts arose.
She is the patron saint of brides and healing family rifts; her prayers are also often invoked against feelings of jealousy. Ask St. Elizabeth of Portugal for prayers of healing in your own family.
The Church also calls upon St. Thomas More as a patron for difficult marriages; however, while he is a married saint, the patronage comes not from his own marriages (he remarried after the death of his first wife) but from the difficult marriages of King Henry VIII.
Thomas served as Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII. Shortly after the appointment, Henry expressed his desire to break his marriage to his wife Catherine to obtain a male heir for the throne and ran into conflict with the Church. Recognizing the validity of their marriage, Thomas refused to sign a letter to the Pope over the matter.
When Henry then broke away from the Church and declared himself head of the Church of England, Thomas bravely refused to recognize the King’s authority in this way. St. Thomas More died a martyr for his convictions.
Pray to St. Thomas More for help in resolving marital problems with this novena.
While obviously not in a difficult marriage with the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph remains a powerful intercession for every couple, especially in times of great need.
The Litany of St. Joseph calls upon him as the “Pillar of families” and “Support in difficulties” and given his desire for all families to imitate the Holy Family, he would love to help you and your spouse. As the earthly father of Christ, St. Joseph’s prayers are extremely efficacious.
Give your burdens to the Lord so that He can bring about new life in your soul and in your relationship.
While many novenas ask for the intercession and prayers of the Blessed Mother or a particular saint, all novenas are ultimately to Jesus because it is from Him that grace flows.
However, if you are looking for a novena that invites you to meditate on a particular aspect of the life of Christ or that helps you present your needs to Him, consider praying these novenas to Jesus:
This novena, also called the Infant Jesus Novena celebrates the great mystery of our faith–that God Himself became Man.
Devotion to the Infant Jesus often focuses on the statue of the Infant of Prague which depicts the Christ child with a crown on His head. In his left hand he holds an orb symbolizing kingship and his right hand is extended in a blessing. This image and the Novena to the Infant of Prague helps us meditate on the fact that an all-powerful God took on the form of a child.
Traditionally this novena was prayed leading up to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus but it can be prayed at any time!
At Christmas we ponder the mystery and gift of the Incarnation. God chose to come to us in complete humility as a child born in Bethlehem, and in taking on our human nature through Jesus, God could bring us into relationship with Him.
This novena is most often said beginning December 16th to end on Christmas, but it is also good to pray anytime during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Jesus intimately understands our sufferings because as God Made Man He was like us in all things but sin.
During His time on earth, He felt pain and sorrow just as we do. Jesus wept for the loss of his friend Lazarus and experienced physical and spiritual pain during his Passion and Death.
However, He is also the God who can bring healing and peace to us when we need it the most. Bring those areas of your life in need of healing to Jesus with this novena.
In 1844, a French Carmelite nun had an apparition of Jesus and gave her the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. A man named Leo Dupont then began this devotion privately and over the next 30 years, many miracles were attributed to the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.
Pope Leo XIII approved this devotion and encouraged the faithful around the world to practice it. Many saints, including St. Therese of the Lisieux, meditated and reverenced the Face of Christ.
This novena can be said at any time, though The Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus takes place the day before Ash Wednesday.
The feast of the Transfiguration commemorates a significant event that occurred before Jesus’ passion.
Jesus goes up a mountain with his Apostles Peter, James, and John. There, Jesus becomes radiant with the glory of God, and Moses and Elijiah appear next to him. A voice from heaven spoke saying: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
This novena gives you an opportunity to meditate on Christ’s identity and mission in a special way before Holy Week.
On Good Friday we commemorate Christ’s Passion and Death on the cross. We solemnly remember and give thanks for the sacrifice He made out of His love for us.
Praying with this novena can help you enter more fully into this great mystery, preparing you to truly receive the graces the Lord desires to give you during the Triduum.
The Cross is a powerful symbol of God’s love for us; God sent us Jesus, His only Son, to suffer and die for us, paying the price for our sins. We are called to look to Christ’s cross and learn from Him how to offer ourselves to God and to others.
This novena meditating on cross often begins on September 6 and ends on The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Jesus’ Resurrection is the most important event to happen in human history. It signified His triumph over sin and death, and made salvation attainable to every person who desires it.
You can say the Novena to the Risen Jesus to thank God for this great gift at any time, but it is especially pertinent to pray during the Easter season.
After Jesus’ resurrection, Christ spent 40 more days on earth before ascending into heaven. Before He rose to His rightful place next to the Father, Jesus promised to always be with us and instructed us to go out to preach the Gospel.
This novena can be said at any time but it also provides a beautiful meditation in the days leading up to the Feast of the Ascension at the end of the Easter season.
Jesus Himself gave the Divine Mercy Novena to St. Faustina during an apparition. At Jesus’ request, each day of the novena offers prayers for God’s mercy on a specific group of people, and involves the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet for nine days.
Jesus promised: “By this Novena (of Chaplets), I will grant every possible grace to souls.”
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus spread rapidly after Jesus’ appearance to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 1670s. He told St. Margaret Mary that He desireddHis heart to be honored, asking for the faithful to make amends for any wrongdoing they had done, frequently take Communion, and observe the Holy Hour.
The symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful one; Pope Leo XIII said: “There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.”
St. Padre Pio recited this particular novena daily and found it a very efficacious prayer to bring intentions to the Lord.
Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to combat the nationalist and secular ideas that had pervaded most nations. This feast and title of Christ boldly proclaims His kingly power and authority.
Pope Pius XI wrote: The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal.”
The Christ the King Novena invites Jesus to reign in our hearts, minds, and wills.
The Church celebrates the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the Liturgical year so the start date of the novena will change slightly from year to year.
Countless saints throughout the history of the Church have prayed novenas for special intentions; Novenas are a particularly efficacious form of prayer and God never fails to pour out His graces after saying one.
However, traditional novenas take time (nine days to be exact!) making it difficult to pray novenas for a very urgent intention.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, understood the power of novenas and the immediate need for prayer required by desperate situations especially with her work among the sick and dying. So she came up with a “Flying Novena.”
What is the “Flying Novena?”
Unlike a traditional novena which takes place over nine days, the Flying Novena, also called an Emergency Novena, can be said in one day (or in one sitting).
Msgr. Leo Maasburg, a friend and spiritual advisor of Mother Teresa, called the Flying Novena “Mother Teresa’s spiritual rapid-fire weapon” because although it’s more accessible and immediate than the traditional novena format it is no less powerful.
Maasburg writes: “The Quick Novena had one thing in common with nine-day and even nine-month novenas: confident pleading for heavenly assistance, as the apostles did for nine days in the upper room ‘with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women’ (Acts 1:14) while waiting for the promised help from the Holy Spirit.”
The Flying Novena also differs from the traditional form of a novena in that it consists of ten Memorares rather than nine as one might expect (“Novena” comes from the Latin word novem which means “nine”).
Mother Teresa always prayed nine Memorares in petition and then offered a 10th in Thanksgiving anticipating the graces God would surely provide.
It was a prayer that always worked for Mother Teresa, and a quick internet search would yield stories from hundreds of others about the miracles worked through this simple novena.
To Jesus Through Mary
Why did Mother Teresa choose to pray the Memorare as part of her emergency novena?
The Memorare is often attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century and is a powerful prayer of supplication to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The prayer was popularized in the 17th Century by Fr. Claude Bernard who believed his miraculous healing came through praying it fervently.
The Church and her saints have spoken time and again on the important role Mary plays in each of our lives, and in particular on her power as an intercessor; Jesus Himself listened to her request at the Wedding of Cana.
When Jesus entrusted us along with St. John the Apostle to her loving, maternal care during the Crucifixion, He invited us to approach Mary as our Mother with our needs.
The Memorare does this with an expression of radical confidence in her to bring our needs straight to Christ and to their happy end.
Mother Teresa implores us to: “Pray especially to Our Blessed Mother Mary, placing all your intentions into her hands. For she loves you as she loves her Son. She will guide you in all your relationships so that peace may fill your life.”
Have a special and urgent intention you need prayers for? Entrust your petition to Jesus through Mary with Mother Teresa’ Flying Novena.
Leave your intention and comment below so we can pray with you too.
In most if not all cultures, societies, and organizations, the elderly members are treated with a special level of respect and are often called upon for advice, wisdom, and stories to learn from. The Church is no different! Consider the elderly priests and religious we can look up to for their long lives spent loving the Lord, or the couples who have been married for many decades offering marriage advice to the young couple preparing for their wedding.
With age comes experience: that goes for both mistakes and accomplishments. We can learn countless lessons from the elderly people in our lives as well as the saints in heaven who lived long lives.
You can ask for intercession from these saints or pray any of these novenas at any time for whatever your intention may be. You may also consider the saint’s patronage as it might line up with your intention. If you don’t have a specific intention to pray for, consider praying for the elderly in general; pray for those who have been forgotten, those who are suffering physical ailments, those who are near death, and especially those who have no one to pray for them.
Saint Jeanne Jugan
Saint Jeanne Jugan is the patron saint of the elderly and destitute. She was born in France and had a heart for the poor and elderly. She would often say “the poor are our Lord.” In the mid-1800s, St. Jeanne founded a religious order dedicated to praying and caring for the elderly in need; it is called the Little Sisters of the Poor and is still active and thriving today. She wrote: “With the eye of faith, we must see Jesus in our old people—for they are God’s mouthpiece.”
Her feast day is August 30; ask for her prayers!
Saint Catherine Laboure
St. Catherine Laboure is another patron saint of the elderly. She is most known for receiving visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and creating the miraculous medal at Mary’s request. Living in the 1800s, she joined the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. She spent much of her life serving the elderly and sick. You can pray the Saint Catherine Laboure Novena for any intention, but consider praying it for an elderly person or a group of people.
St. Anthony is patron of the elderly in addition to his patronage of finding lost things, which he is largely called upon for. He was a Franciscan serving in Padua although he was born in Portugal. His feast day is June 13, but you can pray the St. Anthony Novena anytime and for any intention!
Saint John Paul II
St. John Paul II was a young pope and appealed (and still appeals) to young people in the Church! But he also witnessed to people all over the world what it looks like to grow old and suffer well for Jesus. St. John Paul II endured Parkinson’s disease and suffered in his old age in the last years of his papacy. You can pray the St. John Paul II Novena for any intention; consider praying it for someone who is near death, suffering a physical sickness, or facing a chronic or terminal diagnosis.
St. Joseph is often portrayed in imagery as an older man. While the specific dates of his death are unknown, we do know that he died prior to Jesus’s passion. He is the patron of a happy death, which involves being content and at peace at the time of death. Pray this Novena to St. Joseph for his intercession for a happy death.
The Bible directs older men and women to proclaim sound doctrine in different ways. Titus 2:2-5 says “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”
Let us pray for older men and women on their way to sainthood that they might live lives that are pleasing to the Lord.
“The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” said Early Church Father Tertullian.
For centuries, Christians have faced persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ. Not only has their faith brought them eternal glory, but their sacrifice continues to witness to the Church even in the modern world.
We can look to these brave saints for courage and help as we face the challenges of being a disciple of Christ.
Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores lived in Mexico during the Cristero War, in which the country’s anti-Catholic government persecuted people of faith.
During this time Anacleto supported both passive and active resistance movements, by establishing a magazine which challenged the anti-Catholic components of the 1917 Constitution as well as giving speeches and writing pamphlets to help the cause.
The government tortured Anacleto before sentencing him to death by firing squad. His last words were: “Viva Cristo Rey!”
During the 1600s, eight French Jesuit missionaries, including St. Isaac Jogues, traveled to North America to minister to the Native American tribes in Canada and New York. While they did spread the Gospel to many members of the Huron tribes, the Jesuit priests and brothers struggled to fully win their trust.
During conflicts between warring tribes, the North American Martyrs were tortured and killed.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity died together as martyrs for the faith during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Severus in Africa. Both women were mothers and faced their execution with peace and joy.
The powerful example of Perpetua and Felicity, and their other companions, changed the hearts of many of their persecutors, with their jailor even converting. They were sentenced to die by wild beasts in an arena but ultimately died by a gladiator’s sword.
The Church considered these holy women patron saints of expectant mothers, widows, butchers, and ranchers.
St. Adalbert was born into a powerful and wealthy family in Bohemia. He later became a Bishop and a missionary. During his time as Bishop, he found himself in the midst of his family’s political battles and their rivals made it unsafe for Adalbert to continue serving as he had been.
Adalbert went to Hungary, Poland, and Prussia as a missionary and was martyred by pagan priests in Prussia who were unhappy with him and his teachings.
Saint Agatha made a vow of virginity at the age of 15. However, her beauty made her the object of affection for many men. One man in particular, Quintianus, enraged by her rejection of him, had Agatha arrested for being a Christian.
Agatha upheld her vow of virginity despite persecution, torture, and the threat of death.
She endured each act against her, including having her breasts cut off, with joy and trust in the Lord.
Because of the torture she faced, Saint Agatha is the patroness for those suffering from breast cancer.
St. Alexander, or Alexander of Jerusalem, became the first bishop of Cappadocia.
Alexander faced many years of persecution as a Christian. He was first imprisoned during Emperor Severus’ persecution of Christians and again during the reign of Emperor Decius. Alexander chose torture and death rather than giving up his faith.
Despite many attempts to take his life, he died in prison still holding fast to the faith.
During the persecution under Diocletian, Saint Anastasia cared for the imprisoned Christians, bringing them food and tending to their ailments. When her pagan husband learned of Anastasia’s charitable work, he beat her and imprisoned her.
After his death, she continued to care for the persecuted faithful before being arrested for her faith. The threat of torture and death did not sway her to abandon her belief or her vow of virginity which had remained intact even throughout her marriage.
Before becoming one of the Twelve Apostles, Saint Andrew worked as a fisherman with his brother Saint Peter. He followed Christ’s call to become a “fisher of men.”
Tradition tells us that after Jesus’ death, Andrew went on to spread the Good News near the Black Sea in what is now Turkey and Greece and like most of the other Apostles died a martyr. Similar to Jesus Christ and Peter he was crucified, however, he died a martyr on an X-shaped cross.
Born to wealthy pagan parents in Greece, Saint Barbara converted to Christianity. Before she was even baptized, Barbara dedicated her life and her virginity to God. She refused every suitor who asked for her hand in marriage.
After hearing of her conversion, Barbara’s own father tortured her before handing her over to the city’s prefect. She refused to renounce her faith and was beheaded by her father.
Saint Blaise turned his healing work of bodies as a physician to the healing work of souls by becoming a priest.
Blaise was known for his powerful preaching and his example of virtue, as well as through the many miracles he performed. Many people even today turn to him in prayer for the healing of throat ailments.
During the persecution under Emperor Licinius, Blaise was arrested and beheaded.
Saint Cecilia is among the most famous Roman martyrs, with her name included in the Eucharistic prayer the other highly venerated Virgin Martyrs.
Despite her vow of virginity, St. Cecilia’s parents forced her to marry Valerian, a pagan. Cecilia told her husband about the vow and that an angel was protecting her. Valerian promised to protect her virginity if he too could see the angel. Once he was baptized, he saw the angel and even converted.
Both Cecilia and Valerian died as martyrs.
Uganda-born St. Charles Lwanga became the chief steward of violent and morally corrupt King Mwanga II after the former steward was killed for speaking out against the King and his anti-Christian actions.
When the King ordered the Christian members of his court to renounce their faith or face execution, the Christians, led by St. Charles Lwanga stood firm. While they awaited their death, Charles baptized those who were still catechumens and they faced their deaths with courage and joy.
We don’t know much for certain about St. Christina other than the fact that she was a Christian martyr from the 3rd Century; however, tradition holds that her pagan father wanted her to become a priestess.
Despite having no previous exposure to Christianity, an angel appeared and instructed her in the faith. When her father found out, Christina faced immense torture and death for her refusal to give up her faith.
Saint Dymphna was born in Ireland to a pagan father and devout Christian mother. Her father’s mental stability declined rapidly after her mother’s death and demanded that Dymphna marry him.
Saint Dymphna fled to Belgium and she started a hospital for the poor but was later discovered and killed by her father. Because of her care for the sick and the events leading up to martyrdom, Dymphna is considered the patron saint of those suffering from nervous and mental afflictions.
St. Florian joined the Roman army as a young man and rose through the ranks serving as a commander until the Christian persecution under Emperor Diocletian began.
Florian refused to enforce laws that forbid the practice of the Christian faith. When Governor Aquilinus heard of Florian’s insubordination, he ordered Florian to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Instead, he professed his Christian faith.
Florian was tortured and died a martyr by being thrown into the Enns River with a stone around his neck.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of St. John the Apostle and served as the second Bishop of Antioch. He fiercely defended orthodoxy among the early Christians.
Emperor Trajan sentenced Ignatius to be eaten by wild beasts in the Roman arena for refusing to renounce his faith. Ignatius wrote many letters to the faithful during his imprisonment that remain great treasures of our Church.
Saint James the Greater worked as a fisherman before becoming one of the first of Jesus’ disciples. James is often seen alongside his brother John and St. Peter, making up a small group of Jesus’ most intimate friends. The three saw miracles and events that none of the other Apostles witnessed.
After the Ascension, James traveled throughout Israel and the Roman Empire, even as far as Spain to spread the Good News of Salvation. He was beheaded by King Herod, becoming the first of the Twelve to die for the faith.
Not to be confused with St. James the Greater, Saint James the Lesser was also one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. After Jesus’ Ascension, James held high positions in the early Church. St. Paul often consulted with him, and it is traditionally believed that James became the first bishop of Jerusalem.
Many scholars also believe him to have written the Epistle of St. James, which offers much practical guidance to living the faith especially to the people of the time.
Like most of the other Apostles, St. James the Less died a martyr, giving his life for his love and faith in Jesus.
God spoke to young Saint Joan of Arc telling her to help the King of France in his quest to liberate France. She led a small army to victory in many battles and helped bring about the coronation of Charles VII.
After being captured and sold to the British, Joan was condemned to death as a heretic. She met her fate with courage, saying as she burned at the stake: “Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!”
Saint John Fisher served as a priest in England during the rule of Henry VIII. When the king wanted to divorce his wife Catherine, John vehemently spoke out against the actions and passionately defended the indissolubility of the marriage.
Henry demanded that John and other members of the clergy declare the children of his new wife heirs to the throne, but John refused. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London before being beheaded.
Saint Julia became a slave after a Roman raid on her city. Because of her love for the Lord, Julia accepted her suffering with joy. She glorified God in the work she was told to do, making her the favorite of her master.
During a trip with her master to Corsica, Julia refused to participate in a pagan festival angering the governor. When she refused to give up her faith, the governor had Julia crucified.
Saint Lawrence served as a deacon under Pope Sixtus II, responsible for the care of the Church treasury and the distribution of alms.
When Emperor Valerian condemned all deacons, priests, and bishops to death, Lawrenece was commanded to surrender the riches of the Church to the government. Instead he gave away as much of the riches as he could and appeared before the prefect with a large group of the poor, the blind, and the lame calling them the true riches of the Church.
For his disobedience, Lawrence was cooked alive on a gridiron over hot coals. He faced death with courage and joy, with some accounts saying that he even joked with his torturers saying: “Please turn me over, for I am well-done on this side!”
This early Christian Virgin and Martyr suffered violence and a brutal death after refusing to break her vow of virginity. Traditionally it is believed that St. Lucy’s eyes were gouged out during her torture and were miraculously restored after her death.
For this reason Christian art often depicts her with eyes on a platter and the Church calls upon her for healing from blindness or other afflictions of the eye.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Francsican priest, became a martyr during his time in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. He courageously offered his life in place of another man sentenced to die by starvation.
However, after 14 days without food or water, the SS guards killed Kolbe by lethal injection.
Jesuit priest Miguel Pro courageously served his flock even under threat of death during the Catholic persecution in Mexico. He died by firing squad shouting: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”
The courage and love of God demonstrated by Miguel Pro sustained the faith of many Mexicans during this time and serves as a profound example for us even today.
St. Paul Miki, a Japanese Jesuit priest, and his 26 companions were arrested by the emperor Toyotomi Hideyoshi for their Christian faith.
They were made to walk 600 miles to the place of execution; they sang the Te Deum as they walked, knowing they would soon die.
As Paul and his companions were tied to crosses, Paul gave his final sermon and extended forgiveness to the executioners waiting to thrust lances into their sides. They all sang the Cantle of Zachariah before their death.
St. Philomena, the daughter of a Greek King, took a vow of virginity at the age of 13. On a trip to Rome with her father, Philomena caught the eye of Emperor Diocletian.
When she refused to marry him, the emperor had her tortured; however, angels came to heal her. Finally, Philomena was beheaded. Many miracles have since come through her relics.
Saint Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, played a significant role in the early Church. He helped the faithful navigate disagreements in the early Church as well as combat heresies that began to emerge with Christ-like love and patience.
St. Polycarp followed Christ even to death as a martyr.
St. Roque was a Jesuit priest from Paraguay who lived as a missionary among the native Guarani people. He established many missions in the area.
After a conflict with a local chieftain and sorcerer, St. Roque was murdered along with two other priests. He was one of the earliest martyrs from the Americas to be beatified.
Saint Sebastian served in the Roman Army during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. He converted many people to Christianity and was put to death for his faith.
The Emperor ordered that Sebastian be tied to a stake and shot with arrows by his fellow soldiers for target practice; however, he survived. He then sought out Diocletian to reprimand the emperor’s treatment of Christians. Sebastian was finally martyred.
Saint Stanislaus served as the Bishop of Krakow in the late 1000s. He was known for his great virtue and his eloquent preaching, and eventually also became a political advisor to the king.
Stanislaus eventually excommunicated the king for an unjust war and for his sexual immorality. The infuriated king killed Stanislaus while he celebrated mass.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Stephen was one of seven righteous men ordained deacons to help the Apostles serve the early Church.
As a man of great faith and filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen worked many miracles and won debates against those who opposed him. The opponents eventually stoned Stephen to death, becoming the first Christian martyr.
As he died, Stepehen begged God to receive his spirit
St. Thomas More was an English lawyer and statesman, as well as a philosopher, author, and scholar. He was also a devoted husband and father to his four children.
Thomas More served as Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII and spoke out vehemently against Henry’s divorce and his breaking of ties with Rome to begin the Church of England.
For his conviction to the truth, Thomas More was martyred.
St. Wenceslaus lived as a Bohemian Duke during the 900s. With his position, he supported the Church and encouraged the flourishing of the faith. He also worked toward unifying Bohemia and negotiating peace with Germany.
Wenceslaus was attacked and killed by his political opponents while on his way to mass. While not a traditional martyr’s death, the people considered him a martyr and began to make pilgrimages to his tomb.
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